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Receiving duo emerges for No. 13 Oregon State

Receiving duo emerges for No. 13 Oregon State

CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) Two of the keys to No. 13 Oregon State's surprising turnaround this season are Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks, who don't hesitate in proclaiming themselves the best receiving duo in the Pac-12.

Some of the numbers certainly back them up.

While USC's Marquise Lee grabs all the headlines out West, Wheaton and Cooks are combining to average more than 211 receiving yards a game for the Beavers (7-1, 5-1).

Cooks, a sophomore, is averaging 113.25 yards, ranking him seventh among FBS players, while senior Wheaton is No. 13 with 98.4. Wheaton lost some ground when he left Oregon State's game against Washington two weeks ago in the first quarter because of a concussion.

The only other school with two receivers ranked as high is West Virginia, which has No. 8 Travon Austin (111.13) and No. 11 Stedman Bailey (103.75).

``I guess it depends on who you ask,'' laughed Wheaton when asked if he and his teammate were the best in the conference. ``I think so. Definitely.''

Declared Cooks: ``Yes. Yes, we are.''

Lee leads the Pac-12 and is second nationally with an average of nearly 143 yards. Together with teammate Robert Woods (72.9), they're averaging just over 215 yards a game, more than Cooks and Wheaton but also with the dynamic Lee contributing disproportionate yardage. Austin Hill and Dan Buckner are together averaging about 186 yards for Arizona.

In last Saturday's 36-26 victory over Arizona State, Cooks caught six passes for 116 yards with a touchdown, and Wheaton caught four passes for 108 yards with two scores. It was the third time this season that the duo had at least 100 receiving yards apiece.

For the season, Cooks has 906 receiving yards and four touchdowns, while Wheaton has 787 yards and eight scores. Wheaton has at least one catch in 31 straight games.

Asked for his opinion, coach Mike Riley said Wheaton and Cooks benefit greatly from their quickness. This spring Wheaton bested Oregon speedster De'Anthony Thomas in the Oregon Twilight track meet at Hayward Field, taking second in the 100-meter dash in 10.58 seconds (Thomas was third in 10.65 seconds).

``They are also very detailed guys,'' Riley said. ``They work at this thing hard. That combination is good.''

Oh, and as for the two being the best receiving tandem in the league?

``I agree totally,'' Riley said.

Overall, Oregon is ranked 21st nationally in passing offense with 306.1 yards a game, but they've juggled two quarterbacks, Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz.

Mannion started Oregon States' first four games, but injured his left knee and required surgery. Vaz, a junior who had not started a game since high school, led the Beavers to victories in their next two games.

Mannion, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, returned against Washington, but threw four picks in a 20-17 loss, the Beavers' first of the season. Vaz took over last weekend against the Sun Devils, and has been named Oregon State's starter for this Saturday's game at Stanford.

Wheaton credited both with the duo's success.

``I think a lot of it has to do with our quarterback. Both our quarterbacks are real good. They put it where it needs to be,'' he said.

To which Vaz returned the compliment: ``Just knowing that they can score whenever they get the ball in their hands - it's huge for any quarterback. They make my job a whole lot easier.''

The Beavers face a considerable challenge in the 16th-ranked Cardinal (7-2, 5-1). The teams are playing for second place in the Pac-12 North to No. 2 Oregon, which hasn't lost a game. Both Stanford and Oregon State still have the Ducks on their schedules.

That the Beavers are in this position is remarkable. Last season, they went 3-9 and many were calling for Riley's dismissal. Oregon State was picked in the preseason to finish last in the league's northern division.

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Need to Know: The best cornerbacks the Redskins will face in 2018

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Need to Know: The best cornerbacks the Redskins will face in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, July 20, six days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The five best cornerbacks the Redskins will face in 2018

This week we’ll be looking at the best of what the Redskins will face during the 2018 season. Today the cornerbacks are up. They are roughly ranked by Pro Football Focus’ coverage metrics, although I did some juggling based on interception totals and other factors. Prior to this, we looked at the best teamsreceivers, running backspass rushers, and quarterbacks

1. Patrick Peterson, Cardinals—The athletic Peterson has been All-Pro three times and has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his seven years in the league. He hasn’t had a big interception total since he got seven in 2012 but that is mostly because quarterbacks only throw his way about once in every ten snaps he is in coverage. 

2. Jalen Ramsey, Jaguars—I could easily have ranked Ramsey over Peterson. I went with Peterson because he’s been doing it for longer and he’s only 28. Ramsey has justified his No. 5 selection in the 2016 draft. His long arms and ball skills serve him well. He has the size to defend the bigger receivers and the athleticism to be effective against shifty and speedy receivers. 

3. A.J. Bouye, Jaguars—If Alex Smith tries to throw away from Ramsey he will encounter trouble on the other side. It’s been trendy to say that Bouye is underrated for so long he’s in danger of becoming overrated. But he’s not there yet. Bouye was one of four full-time (played at least 60% of snaps) cornerbacks who did not allow a touchdown pass last year and he had by far the most plays in coverage. 

4. Malcolm Butler, Titans—If the Brady-Belichick Patriots don’t win another Super Bowl, the coach’s decision to keep Butler on the bench as Nick Foles shredded the New England secondary will be marked as the end of that era. Maybe Butler isn’t good enough to have made a difference, but it would have been interesting to see. He’s with the Titans now and he will give Smith problems in December. 

5. Marshon Lattimore, Saints—Last year’s defensive rookie of the year plays an aggressive style both in press man coverage and when tackling receivers who have caught the ball. An ankle injury sent him out of the game against the Redskins early, perhaps one of the reasons why Kirk Cousins was able to light them up for 322 yards and three touchdowns. 

Best of the rest: Desmond Trufant, Falcons; Brent Grimes, Bucs; Logan Ryan, Titans;k Jaire Alexander (rookie), Packers

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 6
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 20
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 43

The Redskins last played a game 201 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 51 days. 

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What exactly did the Orioles get in return for Manny Machado?

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What exactly did the Orioles get in return for Manny Machado?

So, the Orioles made some headlines earlier this week. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but minor league pitcher Asher Wojciechowski exercised his opt-out clause and is no longer with the organization. Please keep Orioles fans in your thoughts during this trying time.

As everyone reading this is undoubtedly already aware, the Orioles *also* made a trade yesterday, sending 26-year old superstar Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In return for their once-in-a-lifetime talent, the Orioles received a whopping five prospects from the Dodgers’ minor league system.

Yusniel Diaz, OF, 21

It’s fitting that this trade is being compared to the Erik Bedard trade, which was also a five-for-one, because Diaz could be a poor man’s Adam Jones. He’s not the prospect Jones was, but he could end up being a really nice player.

Talent evaluators are split on his ultimate ceiling. Some describe him as a bona fide stud, and others leave him off their top 100 lists. I’ve seen him ranked as high as 31st overall (by Baseball Prospectus), which, if accurate, is a terrific main piece in a package for a star rental. 

Most consider Diaz’s main flaw as a prospect to be his in-game power, though anyone watching the 2018 MLB Futures Game would be confused by that, as he became the second player ever to hit multiple home runs in the game. It’s possible that more power develops as he matures, and he certainly wouldn’t be the first player to hit for more power once reaching the Majors, but for now, it’s not a strength. I wouldn’t expect him to top 20 home runs in most seasons.

His bat-to-ball ability is his clearest strength, as he projects to consistently hit for a high average. His batting eye, while formerly a weakness, has become a strength in 2018, as he’s actually walked more times than he’s struck out (a rarity in this day and age). That will play well with O’s fans who are tired of seeing their players challenge strikeout records.

Dean Kremer, RHP, 22

Kremer isn’t a major name, which is a disappointment for O’s fans and one of the reasons their haul felt so uninspiring. Compared to more highly-touted prospects like Dustin May, Kremer looks like the team settled.

That said, he’s currently sporting the best K/9 ratio in the minors, and could end up being a diamond in the rough. He’s come a long way since being a 14th-round pick two years ago, and you have to wonder if the Orioles’ much-maligned pitching development can pick up where the much more successful Dodgers instructors left off.

Kremer is also notable for being the first Israeli-born player ever drafted in Major League Baseball.

Rylan Bannon, IF, 22

Bannon was an 8th-rounder last year and is having somewhat of a breakout this season. He’s leading the league in home runs, though playing in a notorious band box of a home park is skewing those numbers.

Bannon is undersized, but has a reputation of a good, if not elite, fielder. He’s a third baseman, but will likely spend some time at second as well. If the power breakout is real, he could end up a solid starter for the Orioles down the road. Again, that’s about all you can hope for in trades of this nature.

Zach Pop, RHP, 21

Pop has been described as potentially a future “right-handed Zach Britton,” which every O’s fan would take in a heartbeat. Of course, he’s not ranked like a future All-Star, as even in the weaker Orioles farm system he’s likely no better than around 25th. 

Still, the filler players in big trades like this are just lottery tickets, and considering his lack of pedigree, Pop seems like a relatively “safe” pitcher with projectability. He strikes out a lot of batters and gets a lot of ground balls, and at the very least can likely become a decent middle reliever.

Breyvic Valera, IF, 26

In a best-case scenario, Valera becomes the Orioles’ Ryan Flaherty replacement. If you squint, you can see somewhat decent upside in each of the other returning players, even despite their modest prospect rankings, but Valera is a clear utility player. 

He gets on base and hits for contact well enough to stick around and has proven capable of defending multiple positions, so there actually might be a spot for him at the end of the Orioles bench.

Overall

This trade has been described as anywhere from adequate and somewhat deflating to a great haul O’s fans should be excited about. Four of the five players have decent ceilings, though the chance of all four (or even just two of them) reaching those ceilings is highly unlikely. It’s just the nature of baseball.

Ultimately, this trade will be judged on the success or failure of Yusniel Diaz, who is the clear centerpiece of the package. Whether or not he succeeds will be partially up to him, and partially up to the front office and player development team.

If this trade is the beginning of the core for the next competitive Orioles team, then it’ll have to be considered a success. If these players each bust out of the league, then it was still the correct decision to trade Machado instead of settling for draft pick compensation, but it will still sting all the more for O’s fans seeing Manny soar to new heights elsewhere.